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Montreal vs. New Jersey | December 4th, 2013 | 1900 EST
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In this week's HW Recap: It may have been the final week for the season for the Habs but they put forth some of their better efforts of the year while picking up 5 of 6 points. In Hamilton, the miracle playoff run was over before it really got going as a pair of weekend losses ended their postseason hopes. The Jacques Beauchamp Award was a point of contention as many thought David Desharnais should have won, my Final Thought discusses why he shouldn't have even been a nominee.
Players are rated from 1 to however many players play on a weekly (non-cumulative) basis. Rankings will be tracked weekly and averages provided.
1) Max Pacioretty: He did his best to try and catch Cole for the team goal scoring title. Even though he finished 2nd on the team in that regard, it was still a terrific year for him; to see him finish as strong as he did is quite encouraging. (Prev: 3 Avg: 4.17)
2) Erik Cole: Like Pacioretty, he tickled the twine three times. When he signed back on July 1st, did anyone envision he'd be tied for 11th in the league for goals scored? I know I sure didn't. (Prev: 1 Avg: 4.00)
3) Tomas Plekanec: The shorthanded goal (3-on-5) against Toronto was a thing of beauty. On the powerplay he also did the unimaginable - look decent while playing the point, something that couldn't be said earlier this season. (Prev: 2 Avg: 6.32)
4) David Desharnais: I'm a little surprised that when his linemates scored 6 goals, he only managed a single assist on those tallies (plus one on another goal). For his wingers to do as well as they did though, he had to have played a larger role than the statsheet indicates. (Prev: 9 Avg: 6.32)
5) Peter Budaj: I know the Habs weren't facing the best of teams but he turned in some solid performances. Not only did the week really help his numbers, I'm sure it will be a confidence booster leading into the Worlds where he'll likely be Slovakia's starter. (Prev: 6 Avg: 9.08)
6) Josh Gorges: Stop the presses, he had a game where he didn't block a shot (there weren't too many of those this year). On the flipside, he picked up a point in each of the three games, a rarity for him. (Prev: 5 Avg: 8.44)
7) P.K. Subban: He took some big strides forward these last few weeks in his play away from the puck, his week continued that trend. The offence wasn't there but the opponents weren't scoring when he was out either and that's what matters most. (Prev: 4 Avg: 8.68)
8) Blake Geoffrion: Signs of life, finally. He played with a bit of a physical edge and chipped in with a goal, that's what should be expected of him in a bottom-6 role next season. (Prev: 18 Avg: 15.00)
9) Alexei Emelin: With the game he did play, it's hard to imagine he was playing injured (and had been for a while too, he never really fully recovered from what put him out of the lineup briefly a few weeks ago). (Prev: 14 Avg: 11.26)
10) Louis Leblanc: He showed a few flashes but he wasn't the same player he had been these last few weeks. Going back to Hamilton and playing a few more games will hopefully end his year on a good note. (Prev: 8 Avg: 14.50)
11) Andrei Markov: I don't know about you but the best news this week from him is that he didn't get injured. He actually is healthy going into the offseason, a rarity the last little while. (Prev: 12 Avg: 10.60)
12) Lars Eller: I know he didn't exactly have the best of wingers but I was hoping for him to do a little more to end his year on a better note. (Prev: 10 Avg: 7.92)
13) Frederic St. Denis: Unlike last week where he more or less played flawlessly in his own zone, he had his share of struggles these last few games. Fortunately, he rebounded well from most of them and may have done enough to warrant NHL consideration next year. (Prev: 7 Avg: 15.00)
14) Tomas Kaberle: I don't think he was 100% when he came back. It was more or less the usual for him, some good moments in the offensive zone but some struggles in his own end. (Prev: N/A Avg: 11.13)
15) Brad Staubitz: I'm happy he managed to get a point, that puts him just behind Budaj for team scoring. Beyond that, he wasn't particularly noticeable for any good or bad reason. (Prev: 16 Avg: 17.83)
16) Rene Bourque: Some players gave their all to the very end, some didn't. I'm pretty sure we all know what category he falls into. (Prev: 11 Avg: 13.67)
17) Aaron Palushaj: Against Toronto he had a good game but he was pretty much invisible otherwise. I think he has done enough to get a qualifying offer but he'll be on the fringe for next year by the looks of it. (Prev: 20 Avg: 17.60)
18) Gabriel Dumont: In terms of a merit-based callup, it shouldn't have been him to begin with. Short of one impressive hit, he demonstrated why he shouldn't have even been up to begin with. (Prev: N/A Avg: 18.00)
19) Chris Campoli: I liked his efforts shorthanded - which begs the question why he was even out there - but for an offensive blueliner, his presence in that end was largely non-existant. (Prev: 17 Avg: 18.29)
20) Michael Blunden: He had plenty of ice time to make an impact but he went entire periods without really doing anything to affect the game. It's not a foregone conclusion he'll be offered a deal in June. (Prev: 15 Avg: 16.67)
The Dog Pound
The dream is over before it really began as Hamilton's thin playoff hopes were wiped out with a trio of losses during the week. On the plus side, the lineup is the healthiest it has pretty much been all year.
Despite some of the reinforcements, the offence was pretty much non-existent which was the main reason for their struggles in the penultimate week of their season.
|32||Frederic St. Denis||1||0||0||-1||4||0|
Goals: Andreas Engqvist (19)
Assists: St.Denis/Willsie (25)
Points: Brian Willsie (42)
+/-: Alex Henry (+2)
PIMS: Zack FitzGerald (257) (tied for the league lead)
Shots: Brian Willsie (239)
April 13: Hamilton vs Lake Erie
April 14: Grand Rapids vs Hamilton
April 15: Grand Rapids vs Hamilton
Josh Gorges was the recipient of Montreal's annual Jacques Beauchamp award this week, given to a player who more or less played well without getting enough acknowledgement for it. In years past, it went to the likes of Maxim Lapierre, Mark Streit (before he took off offensively), Steve Begin, and Joe Juneau. Note the lack of a scorer on there. Yet for some odd reason, there was shock that the award didn't go to David Desharnais. What exactly is unsung from a 60 point getter? He received lots of votes for the 3 Stars (as voted by the fans) and was the focus of countless articles and discussions about his breakout season. That's more than enough coverage. Desharnais had a terrific season and deserves a ton of credit for it but that should come in the form of being in the discussion of one of the team MVP's, not the unsung hero.
For that matter, I'm not sure Gorges fits the mold either although he does a lot more than Desharnais. For weeks now, his blocked shot total (3rd highest league wide since the lockout) has been discussed around the league. As the player who played the second most ice time on the team per game, that too doesn't really qualify as all that unexpected. If I had a vote, he'd have been in my top-5 but not at the top. So who would have been my top picks? Interestingly enough, both players that jump out at me didn't crack the top-5 in voting.
Raphael Diaz is the definition of a player coming out of nowhere to have a bigger than anticipated impact on the Habs. Let's not forget back in September pretty much everyone had him heading for Hamilton. I had him playing with the Habs at some point but not right away. Instead, he instantly became a regular and a somewhat productive one. He logged more minutes than most defencemen (only Subban/Gorges played more) and although he doesn't lay out anyone with the body, he plays a solid positional game. Because some fans thought he was holding back Alexei Emelin, he has been unjustifiably harshly criticized in the public eye.
Then there's Travis Moen. Yes, we all bemoaned the fact (I did several times in my weekly columns) that he played a top-6 role but he was Mr. Versatility for the season. He played on all 4 lines and saw some PP time while being an anchor on the PK. He became a bit of a scapegoat for Montreal's offensive ineptitude at times as a result but that's a bigger role than anyone expected him to carry and he did so relatively well. His case reminds me a bit of Streit's in that he got shuffled between a variety of roles playing adequately in most of them.
I suspect what might have held these guys back was injuries but I sure hope they were at least considered by some of the voters. These aren't sexy picks by any stretch of the imagination but they're not supposed to be, that's not what this award has historically been for. It's not for the top scorers on the team so this is not yet another insult to Desharnais as some in the media have tried to dub it. We've had enough controversies on the season, we don't need another one, especially when the non-selection is justified.
Although the Habs' season is over, the Bulldogs have another full week of games ahead of them so there will be one final HW Recap in its usual Sunday slot next week. In place of the player rankings, prospects will be the focus as we start to approach the Memorial Cup next month.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.